Director's Order graphic

[Send comments to Janet McDonnell before May 10, 2004]

Directors Order #28C: Oral History


Approved: ______________________

Effective Date: ____________

Sunset Date: _____________

This Director's Order (DO) supplements DO #28, "Cultural Resources Management," and NPS Management Policies, and is augmented by procedures in the Handbook for Oral History in the National Park Service (National Park Service, 2004). This DO and the related handbook supersede the standards and guidelines outlined in Collecting, Using and Preserving Oral History in the National Park Service (Harpers Ferry Center, 1984).

1.  Background and Purpose

Oral history is a critically important tool in implementing the National Park Service (NPS) mission of preserving and protecting park cultural and natural resources. It is particularly useful in documenting cultural and historical memory, filling gaps in the historical record, and incorporating the perspectives of diverse groups.

Historians, archeologists, ethnographers, interpreters, park rangers, and cultural landscape specialists use oral history to document the history of the NPS, as well as the history of individual parks, park programs, and park structures. In addition, they use oral history to document the events and people that the parks commemorate.

NPS managers and staff incorporate oral history in a variety of products, such as interpretive exhibits, articles, books, web sites, and audio centers. They also use it to support NPS management policies, particularly management policies related to park planning, cultural resource management, education, and interpretation.

Oral history often is done in conjunction with historic resource studies, archeological research and ethnographic studies. Park managers and staff use it as a tool for complying with the consultation requirements in the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (P.L. 101-601; 25 USC 3001-3013); section 106 of National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended (16 USC 470 et seq.); the Alaska Native Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-487; 16 USC 3101), and other statutes.

As an agency of the federal government, the NPS is responsible for conducting its oral history interviews, managing its oral history projects, and maintaining its oral history collections in accordance with accepted professional standards and guidelines and all relevant laws and regulations. This DO is the most efficient and effective way to establish and implement consistent standards and to meet the Service's statutory obligations.

This DO and the accompanying Handbook for Oral History in the National Park Service describe and establish Service-wide policy and procedures that are consistent with existing professional standards and statutory requirements for planning, conducting, handling, and using oral history interviews and maintaining oral history collections. Together they will help ensure the quality, consistency, usefulness, and the long-term preservation of the Service's extremely perishable and irreplaceable oral history resources.

2.  Legal Authority

Authority to issue this DO is contained in the NPS Organic Act (16 U.S.C. 1 - 4), and in delegations of authority found in Part 245 of the DOI Manual. This order is intended only to improve the internal management of the NPS and it is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities or entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.

3.  Relevant Statutes and Guidance

· Copyright Act of 1976 (17 USC 101-810 et seq.) and amendments, including Digital Millennium Act, 1998 (PL 105-304, 112 Stat. 2860) and Sonny Bono Term Extension Act of 1998 (PL 105-298, 112 Stat. 2827)

· Federal Records Act, as amended (44 USC 2901 et seq.)

· Freedom of Information Act (5 USC 552; P.L. 89-554, 90-23)

· Privacy Act of 1974 (5 USC 552a; P.L. 93-579)

· DO #19: "Records Management"

· DO #24: "NPS Museum Collections Management" and its accompanying guidance in the NPS Museum Handbook.

4.  Responsibilities and Requirements

Under this DO, associate directors, regional directors, superintendents, center managers, and park staff who conduct oral history interviews and projects and manage museum collections must take certain actions noted below to meet their professional, ethical, and legal responsibilities in planning, conducting, and handling oral history interviews and managing oral history collections. Regional directors, superintendents, or their designated representatives are responsible for the management of oral history projects and collections in the parks.

   4.1  NPS management policies affirm the Service's long-term commitment to managing the cultural resources in its custody so as to ensure the preservation of those resources and in accordance with existing legislation and implementing policies and procedures. Management policies also affirm the importance of conducting research in support of planning and operations and incorporating the perspectives of peoples traditionally associated with those resources.

To preserve oral history collections and make them available to future generations, it is essential to observe established archival standards of organization, storage, and description. Oral history materials are perishable resources that will deteriorate rapidly if not handled correctly.

   4.2  The Associate Director for Cultural Resources is responsible for developing and implementing policies and procedures for conducting and handling oral history in the NPS. The Associate Director will maintain the Handbook for Oral History in the National Park Service.

   4.3  NPS managers and staff will collect, preserve, and maintain their oral history interviews and collections in accordance with standard professional methodology and with guidelines provided in Handbook for Oral History in the National Park Service. This handbook describes and defines the standards, requirements and responsibilities for planning, conducting, preserving, and using oral history resources in each of the following areas:

· Organizing an Oral History Project
· Preparing for and Conducting Interviews
· Handling Oral History Archives
· Processing and Using Oral History
· Ethics and Legalities

   4.4  Superintendents are responsible for ensuring that all museum collections, which include the oral history materials in NPS custody, receive appropriate archival care. They must ensure that oral history materials are arranged and stored in accordance with the practices and procedures outlined in the NPS Museum Handbook (Parts I - III) and in conditions that ensure the lowest risk of damage to those materials. Preservation and protection of museum collections is reported under the Service's Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) goal Ia6.

Superintendents are responsible for gathering, compiling, and submitting specific data about oral history collections for inclusion in the Service-wide Automated National Catalog System (ANCS+) for reporting under GPRA goal IB2. (See DO #24.) Superintendents are responsible for ensuring that oral history materials are accessible to the public as required by and within the constraints of law.

   4.5  NPS managers and staff are required to observe certain legal requirements in handling official records and museum property. Legal considerations include copyright concerns and legal release agreements, to avoid libel and slander, and privacy issues. The park or program responsible for the oral history project must secure the transfer of the interviewee's copyright interest to the federal government, to the park, or to the NPS through a legal release or a deed of gift. With some exceptions, oral history interviews are subject to Freedom of Information Act requests as long as they remain in legal custody and control of NPS. A deed of gift or legal release must be signed conveying copyright to the park, the NPS, or the federal government.

5.  Applicable Standards and Guidelines

· Handbook for Oral History in the National Park Service

· NPS Museum Handbook

· NPS Cultural Resource Guideline, chapter 2 (1997)

· Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Archeology and Historic Preservation (48 Federal Register 444716-44740)

· Professional Standards of the Oral History Association as reflected in its Evaluation Guidelines and Principles and Standards of the Oral History Association

--------End of Director's Order--------